Romantic Novelists' Association

Hints And Tips For New Writers #1

15 January 2018

When I joined the RNA as a new writer, (after ‘practising’ on and off for donkey’s years), I knew nobody. The famous names were daunting. I had no clue about how to format a ms – not knowing it meant manuscript. People talked of genres, (((shrugs))) and a dénouement was foreign to me (sorry!) Then I joined ROMNA – we didn’t have the RNA Facebook page back then, or these weird things called blogs – or vlogs – or authors talking about their work on YouTube(as far as I recall). Nor did I want to look a fool and ask daft questionsEVERYBODY knew the answer to – or so I thought.

I then joined ROMNA and became a serial lurker. Gleaning information and gaining invaluable awareness of the writing world. Sometimes I even knew the answer to a query and posted it – and was taken seriously. I know, who’d have thought it? Then one day, I was in my writing room staring out of the window, daydreaming – a lifelong habit, I cannot lie, and wondered at the knowledge I had gained over the years regarding this business we call writing. I realised I could not have been the only new writer who did not know it all, and decided others might feel the same. So as this New Year begins, and new writers join
us, here are some hints and tips that might be of help or interest…


1) Write some pages in longhand from the book of your favourite author. This helps get you started.

2) Writers are readers first.

3) Welcome criticism. Seek it out at every opportunity.

4) Try not to get upset if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended – even if you
think it’s wrong. And always thank those who take the time to offer it. You never know when you might need to ask their advice again.

5) Right click on a word to use the thesaurus. Do it again on the new word, and make the best use
of your vocabulary.

6) After editing the work on screen or in print, read the text aloud; awkward sentences or errors that sneak through earlier edits show up readily when reading out loud. Or use Word’s Speech feature and have
the computer read it back. This allows you to catch errors you have missed – especially missing words or words that ’sort of sound the same’ but are spelled differently (e.g. Front me instead of ‘From me’).

7) Write as if you’re on deadline and have 500 words to make your point. Then do it again. And again.

8) Download a memo app or voice recorder on your phone – invaluable for when you have that
great idea and can’t find a pen or paper.

9) After starting her fourth book last year, bestselling saga writer, Mary Wood, keeps right on to the end of the road to get the first draft done in 5-6 weeks (and breathe). So, reading and editing what she did the day before is not for her. However, something that she is unsure of could send her off track as she tries to find the details she needs. A killer when she aims for 5000 words a day. So, she came up with this little trick.  “I write with tracker on, so when I am not sure of anything, I write what I think it is – then create a comment. In the box I write what is concerning me and I need to check, and then go forward, knowing that I can easily track something in my polishing up and check it out.
Before I used this method, I would probably have cut my wordage to around 2000
words a day as I stopped writing to trawl the Internet looking for facts.”


Thank you, Mary! I am sure your tip will be of immense help to some of our new writers.

And last, but by no means least:

10) If there is something you don’t know, or you’re not sure of – ASK SOMEONE WHO DOES! The RNA
usually know something or someone who can help you. And remember, no question is ever wasted!

N.B. If you have a favourite hint or tip, don’t keep it to yourself, send it to me at and I will share it with reference to you on next month’s blog.

Happy writing, lovelies.

Sheila Riley



Sheila joined the RNA in 2004 as a new writer. Since then she has written best-selling sagas as Annie Groves. She’s a member of the North West Chapter of the RNA and loves to catch up with writer friends at the regular Southport lunches.


Mary Wood’s latest book, Brighter Days Ahead, is available now.

Brighter Days Ahead is a moving story set against the backdrop of the Second World War, from Mary Wood, author of In Their Mother’s Footsteps. War pulled them apart, but can it bring them back together?

Molly lives with her repugnant father, who has betrayed her many times. From a young age, living on the streets of London’s East End, she has seen the harsh realities of life… When she’s kidnapped by a gang and forced into their underworld, her future seems bleak.
Flo spent her early years in an orphanage and is about to turn her hand to teacher training. When a kindly teacher at her school approaches her about a job at Bletchley Park, it could be everything she never knew she wanted.
Will the girls’ friendship be enough to weather the hard times ahead?